Publisher: Pantheon Books, a division of Random House, Inc.
Release Date: January 29, 2013
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
In her best-selling debut, Hothouse Flower and the Nine Plants of Desire, Margot Berwin brought us to the rain forests of Mexico—to a land of shamans, spirit animals, and snake charmers—in the search for nine rare and valuable plants. Now, with her hotly anticipated second novel, Berwin takes us somewhere darker: deep into the bayous of Louisiana, to a world of fortune-tellers, soothsayers, and potent elixirs. Scent of Darkness is a magical, seductive story about the power of scent, and about what happens when a perfume renders a young woman irresistible.
Evangeline grows up understanding the extraordinary effects of fragrance. Her grandmother Louise is a gifted aromata, a master of scent-making and perfume. When Eva was a girl, Louise carefully explained that lavender under her pillow would make her dream of the man she would marry; eucalyptus would make her taller; almandine, fatter; and jasmine, Louise promised, would wrap her life in a mystery. When Eva is eighteen, Louise leaves her the ultimate gift—a scent created just for her. The small perfume vial is accompanied by a note in Louise’s slanted script: “Do not remove the stopper, Evangeline, unless you want everything in your life to change.”
From the moment Eva places a drop—the essence of fire, leather, rose, and jasmine—on her neck, men dance closer to her, women bury their noses deep into her hair, even the cats outside her bedroom cry to be near her. After a lifetime spent blending into the background, Eva is suddenly the object of intense desire to everyone around her. Strangers follow her down the street; a young boy appears at her door asking for a favor; and two men, one kind and good, the other dark and seductive, fall deeply, madly in love with her. As her greatest gift becomes an unbearable curse, Eva must uncover the secret of her scent and the message her grandmother, the woman who loved her most, wanted to tell her.
A bewitching tale of love, blood, power, and magic, Scent of Darkness is a wildly inventive novel that will seduce the reader’s every sense.
A coming of age tale set in both New York and New Orleans, Scent of Darkness by Margot Berwin was not at all what I expected. Mixing an interesting cast of characters, symbolism from the New Orleans Bayou and the physical sense of "scent, Ms. Berwin's tale is at times dark, haunting and strangely erotic. While developed somewhat slowly, the romance in this book takes both the characters and reader slowly by surprise.
An only child, "Eva from the longer and more beautiful Evangeline", grows up spending her time between two homes; the house she shares with her self-involved mother Loretta, and her summers spent with her grandmother Louise. A perfume maker or aromata, Louise teaches Eva about the power of scent and how scent is tied to our memories. Upon her grandmother's death, Eva inherits her house and a "special scent" with a note that warns her :
"Don't remove the crystal stopper, Evangeline, unless you want
everything in your life to change"
Removing the stopper and wearing the fragrance opens Eva's world and thrusts the shy, young woman into the spotlight. It also grants her secret wish of drawing the attention of Gabriel, a young medical student she's been attracted to from first sight. Following Gabriel to New Orleans, Eva begins to wonder if Gabriel is really drawn to her or just to her scent. Just when Eva thinks her life is just as she wants, another man is drawn into her life because of her scent, artist Micheal Bon Chance.
While neither Gabriel or Michael's characters are fully developed, everything is told from Eva's perspective, and we learn enough about both characters to see they present two completely different futures for Eva's life. The symbolism of their names also takes on special meaning during Eva's journey through life. Adding in the lure of scent, a touch of bayou magic and a little fortune telling, Ms. Berwin, brings Eva's journey full circle when she makes her final choice.
Which man and future will Eva choose? You'll have to read Scent of Darkness to find out. I enjoyed it and look forward to reading more of this author's work.
"Change can be sudden, or slow, like a dream, It can rip out your heart or
bring you peace, But it can never stop being what it is, Evangeline,
Which is something that never stops being.
In other Words,
In the battle between holding on and letting go
Chance will win, every time"
So, my name is Eva from the longer and more beautiful Evangeline. I had something very special once, something that I took for granted and lost. I set out to find it again, and as so often happens, it was right there in front of me. Or should I say it was right there inside of me, running through my veins like a blessing or a plague.
nothing I did not already have.
My Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book as a part of a book tour in exchange for a fair and honest review.